Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Help! My Child Won’t Sleep! (Birth-Preschool)

I remember bringing my first child home from the hospital.  We were living with my mother-in-love at the time because our permanent home was overseas.   This incident was probably within the first week of being home with our precious baby boy.  Everyone was getting ready for bed and saying our goodnights to each other.  And suddenly I was stunned by the feelings of jealousy I had for my mother-in-love because I knew that she was going to get a good night’s sleep, while I was going to be fortunate to have two hours in a row!   I was shocked at my response.  Wasn’ t I overjoyed to  finally have a child?   Why was I feeling this way?  Well it turns out that sleep is a fine delicacy for parents, especially when a newborn is in the house.   And for those of us who have been blessed by a child that doesn’t need much sleep, it has been a rare delicacy since the onset of parenthood!  

Our bodies do weird things when we have not had enough sleep.  I remember my parents telling me a story about a friend who was a police officer.  He worked a double shift and was driving home when he was pulled over by another officer.  They were convinced that he was drunk, until they did the breathalyzer test.  He was just exhausted.  So how can we make sure that we are taking care of our bodies, but not neglecting the needs of our children?  Here are some tips.

Routine, Routine, Routine
Yes, I know that routines are boring.  But that is the point.  Boring brings on the sleep.  A nice warm bath, some warm soft pajamas, cuddling with you over their favorite book, a nice lullaby, and any child starts to nod off.  The routine will bring comfort, security, and eventually some sawing logs. 

Keeping Your Angel Asleep
If your child wakes up in the middle of the night, do not turn the light on.  Talk very softly.  If your child is young, check the two usual things: diaper and tummy.  In other words, check to see if they need a new diaper or if they are hungry.  If both are satisfied, then do everything possible to keep the night atmosphere of dark and quiet.  This will settle them down quicker and get you back to bed sooner.

Install The Quiet Time
I started doing this in our home when I still had napping babies, but older preschoolers who did not need a nap.  So I sat my older children down and told them that every afternoon for one hour, we were all going to have a quiet time.  A quiet time was for you to do something quiet on your bed.  The rules were that you had to stay on your bed doing something quiet.  You could not get up until I told you to get up.  This was lifesaver for me.  It took a week to train them to stay on their beds and be quiet, but this gave all of us a much needed break.  I could lie down or work on some project quietly that could not be done when they were up. 

Get A Clock
This is a great idea for older children who get up at the crack of dawn and wake everyone else up.  Children need to learn that there is an appropriate time to wake up and to be considerate of others who are still trying to sleep.  So you teach them what time is the right time to get up by getting a clock or digital alarm clock for their room.   Give them some strategies to do if they wake up early.  Tell them that they could go back to sleep or do something very quiet in their beds. 

Do It Together
If you are not parenting alone, tag team nap with your partner.  My husband and I do this all the time on Sunday.  Of course we used to enjoy our nap together, but now it is essential that one of us is up at all times.  So we flip a coin and see who goes first.  This gives both of us some much needed rest.  Another option is to take a nap as soon as your partner comes home from
from work.   This gives you a break and you can still help with bedtime routines.   
What other tips do you know to get some rest?  


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